Climbing to the diving board

It’s that time again… a novel finished; the usual early morning routine of writing and knowing (sort of) what direction I’m heading in finished. When I say finished, I mean finished to a certain point. It’s had a good edit and is being read by a few friends to see what they think after which I’ll read it again with their comments in mind and see if it needs a further overhaul. It’s been an immersive journey, this one, even more than Londonia; a story so convoluted at times that I became utterly lost in my own overgrown maze of continuity, or rather non-continuity but I think the maze has been pruned sufficiently now to allow reader exploration. So far I’ve had one effusive response, very effusive so I’m hoping that’s a good sign.

Writing something as long as a novel is oddly comforting, or at least I find it so; a sort of safe place and alternative zone, a rolling project, a cave ( bed with hot water bottles) to retreat into as the real world becomes increasingly complex and worrying…

So, the diving board. I hang my protective towel on a hook and approach the first steps feeling chilled with apprehension. Half way up I’m distracted with a thought of safety and warmth, a return to the changing room, a café, an easy trawl through social media, papers, distractions but then I’d feel empty, unchallenged and in the end, uncomforted. The top platform is empty and stretches away like a small airstrip. I pace carefully forward and peer over the edge. The water is crisply untouched, unruffled. The blank rectangular blue page in effect. I know ideas will emerge if I swim. Arms raised, body trembling, knees bent I push down, arc and plunge.

This morning’s unknown is slightly more known than I had anticipated. I’d had a time travel story wandering about in my mind for a few days and then recalled a novel I’d started a couple of years back based on a short story called The Couch. I dug it out from the recesses of the laptop, read through and wondered why I’d stopped where I had. Possibly as Londonia had taken over at that point. I need only leap from a shorter hight, a good body of words already completed, my imaginary world waiting.

An extract – The Couch experiences a night in a Tooting Bec garden.

The rain gathers pace, the drops becoming a stream of water. I suppose my stuffing will dry out again but what might happen to the desk’s tropical wood veneer . . . someone is going to be in serious trouble with the brittle designer woman. The someone appears suddenly from the back entrance to the garden with a bundle of green plastic sheets. He unwraps them, throws one over the desk, then the chairs, runs around them winding bright yellow string, swearing loudly. The last one is for me. The grey daylight morphs into dark green shadows. I feel the string bunching up the crunching fabric against my legs. Then he’s away, cursing as he walks. 

The rain now patters on the tarpaulin as I steam gently. The night encroaches and animals claim the garden. I hear their small movements on the gravel, feel fur against my wood. Cats snarl at each other; an owl makes its echoing call, another responding from some distant garden. There are other presences out here, people who have claimed this patch of London for themselves over time, odd snatches of conversation warped by rain and time. I don’t fear ghosts. There were many in the chateau even though the various owners invited priests and other psychic cleaners in to oust them. I doze under the plastic lulled by the constant faint drumming of the raindrops.

Review happiness

 

I opened my mail a couple of days ago and was delighted to find, amongst all the ‘dear friend I am writing to you from Botswana’, your dropbox has expired’, Amazon suggests from your profile that you would like this CD of German experimental jazz’, and all the other stuff, these wonderful reviews from Ruth Angell.

Review for The One Hundred and Fifty – Eighth Book by Kate A Hardy.

After devouring two of Kate’s other novels I couldn’t wait to read this book. I wasn’t disappointed. Her style is exciting, involving, humorous, gritty and beautiful.

Kate’s imagination and descriptions of character, place, smell, form, colour, language, relationships and emotion are utterly wonderful. I was transported deep in to her interesting and compelling world and lost until the very last word. I wanted to dive in and be in the guts of the story with the characters and experience all they were experiencing.

I love how this story is almost unbelievable and yet I found myself finding similarities in my own life and hooking elements from the characters experiences into my own. The places that Hamish finds himself on his journey are so familiar, some because I have been there myself others because of how familiarly they are described to me.

The cliff hanger ending made me shout out and wish for some resolution, I couldn’t believe I would never know, genius.

IMG_1872.jpg

 

I love the darker side of Kate’s writing, her analysis of human behaviours when in difficult circumstances, situations not yet encountered by us in 2018 but so very possible in 2070. How death is part of survival and always very near and most likely violent.

My thoughts can hardly describe or do justice to how brilliant Kate A Hardy is at engaging the reader and bringing them into her wonderful world.

I will read her novels again and again.

Ruth Angell 2018

Peer reviewing sites

My last post here was about Youwriteon, and this one is about Youwriteon.

I suppose most of us writers have gone through this route; or if we haven’t, we should.

When I had finished ‘Going out in the midday sun’ I was happily sending out the first three chapters to agents, vaguely keeping an eye on the rejections and wondering what to do next. Then I discovered a whole other world out there, totally by chance. The peer reviewing sites. Youwriteon looked quite friendly with its pink and beige site, so I duly loaded up the first seven thousand words, not really knowing what the site was about. Amazing . . . people read the words and sent back reviews: some pathetic, some enlightening.

A couple of weeks later I logged on and found I was in the Top Ten; I hadn’t even noticed there was one. Then I was hooked. It became a sort of neurotic game: logging on rather too often to see if someone had ‘booked out’ my chapters, and doing rather too many reviews in an addicted fashion. The book hovered around in the top ten for a couple of weeks and then someone ‘sunk it’ with a very good, probably accurate in many places, review, and I was mortified. Then comes the point where you have a lot of reviews and the annoying pointless sniper attack ones start to weigh against the good ones, moving the book down the charts.

This is probably the time to re-load the book with its alterations and get new reviews, or forget it and take the advice and suggestions that were valuable. Easy to say . . . just another — shit, a stupid write up where someone has filled their statuary hundred words and given you two’s out of five’s.

What the site, and presumably others are good for:

Totally and unbelievably useful as a sounding board and general leveler: is your stuff as good as you think? How can it be improved? People out there don’t know you — EXPOSED, you are; how does the work stand up to public scrutiny?

I found it to be an inspiration to write more, push myself, experiment. Also, critiquing other people’s work is useful: annoying sometimes, but on the whole, rewarding, inspiring and a great learning curve. Without the site I probably never would have found the enjoyment in writing short stories which are to my mind such a brilliant tool for playing, trying ideas and prodding the grey matter.

I’ve learned SO much about grammar — a weak point for me having fallen into the 1970’s comprehensive system. Still learning!

My short story that was at number one, did make it through into the ‘best seller’chart and at that point I did breath a small sigh of relief, so perhaps the competitive thing would still be there if it hadn’t have gone through — difficult to say.

What they are not so good for:

Well nothing really; it’s just how YOU use them. Load up the stuff, take the useful crits (sometimes fantastically detailed, thoughtful and SO valuable) ignore the stupid ones (I just had one that praised me very highly, then said at the end, ‘I wish I had given you higher marks as you are obviously a very good writer’ then proceeded to award me dismal marks — useless on all counts.) celebrate if you get high up in the charts, but remember it’s not the reason you have put the stuff up there.

Cold day heating

P1120022

Nasty grey cold day but with large sunny interval. 

The short story (The hundred and fifty-eighth book) on the last post is number one in the ‘Youwriteon’ chart, and another of mine (The couch) is at seven. Going out in the midday sun is bobbing around at around eighteen, and has been for some time. It was in at six a couple of months back, so maybe will climb again. Anyway, nice warm day today despite the thermometer hovering around one degrees.

Reading aloud

IMG_0754

It’s always good to listen to your own stuff read by someone else. (Hello Gill)

To squirm, flinch as something is uttered that perhaps you should have taken out? A phrase you might have considered many times but hung onto: but it’s good, but does it work there  . . . really? No it’s bad, slows the whole pace, chop it, press delete, or hide it in a notebook for another time.

Actually this was alright. A reading in an art exhibition to a very small crowd. I wasn’t surprised as it was mostly French folk visiting the various galleries and my French is certainly not up to translation. It was just a very useful exercise in getting the text off the computer and in front of unknown people.

This is why ‘you write on’ is so good too. A site for aspiring and published writers; you load up some of your precious chapters and wait for the critical missiles to land in your email account: scary but so useful. My first book is out on Amazon now but there are quite a few changes since then in the manuscript. Perhaps there always would be.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=going+out+in+the+midday+sun

Yes. I think.

Well it’s going to have to do.

The latest copy arrived; only one mistake spotted so far ‘Savile’ Row spelt with two L’s. I checked the chapter headings, the print is straight, the page numbers are numbers and not question marks as in an earlier copy. I had a useful critic on ‘You write on’ mainly positive but pointing out a few things I might have changed, BUT, I want to move on. 

So on to number two. Just the editing to do . . . cover, fifteen million checks etc etc.

Here is a photo of all bar one of the rough manuscripts, which are now residing in the paper recycling bin. Onward and forward.Image

Just another quick scan through . . .

IMG_0801

Quick scan resulted in at least thirty typos and a spectacular mistake at the start of a chapter.

Think I’m getting the hang of this now.

Get new copy, confine oneself to bed with tea and no phone. Read. Even though you think you’ve checked every single word, even though you can recite chunks in your sleep. Even though you are so ‘into’ the text that you suddenly stop in the supermarket, box of pasta in hand — shit that should have been a colon on page seventy-five, not a comma. Even then there will be an error somewhere.

To sooth myself I looked up ‘publishing mishaps’. The best was probably a pasta book published by Penguin. At some point the text read: take a teaspoon of freshly ground black people . . .

No hole would be big enough to swallow you up.

YES! almost . . .

IMG_0650IMG_0656IMG_0651

All you other writers out there, all of you who have entered into the world of self-publishing, you know, I’m sure, what those last few hours of faffing with text and loading it all up is like . . . Finally after tears of frustration I pressed the publish button and it was all over — buy a proof copy? yes good idea. Very good idea as when I got the book. delivered pretty promptly by UPS, I had a good scan and found some glaring errors. How can I have read the damned thing forty times and not seen that chapter 21’s date was 199 rather 1999? I do remember correcting it but perhaps I didn’t save it . . . ? Anyway I’m impressed with the Lulu result so far and isn’t incredible that these things exist?

You send a pdf to where? somewhere in . . . I really don’t know where, America’s a big place; I’m not even sure if my little book passed through some huge automated machine there or in the UK. I suppose I have a romantic idea of some old bloke with a pipe and a labrador sitting by a fire in a darkened room — click — Oh another manuscript captain, go fetch, thanks, now what’s this one about? Better get the press set up again.

How many books must this factory/office/place produce every day/ How many people like myself wait keenly to see the finished product of their months/years of painstaking work?

I hope I ordered the ISBN number this time so my effort can clamber onto the pile of waiting titles to be logged onto the vast planet of Amazon.

I’ll let you know.